As a probation 'long-termer' who managed to get out some time ago, I thought you might be interested in some observations from the West Yorkshire CRC Stakeholder event in Wakefield last week.
It's fairly clear that owners Interserve spent a tidy sum preparing their Purple Futures bid to impress the mandarins at the MoJ and of course they were duly rewarded with 5 out of the 21 CRC contracts, including that of West Yorkshire. They were canny enough to get into bed with a number of charities that included Shelter - although they seem to have a very low profile nowadays - and of course we know Addaction didn't like the way things were going and were quick to get out.
The image consultants gave them some clever slogans that to be honest wouldn't be that out of place with outfits that could range from the Freemasons to Unilever I guess:
- Do the right thing
- Take pride in what you do
- Everyone has a voice
- Bring better to life
They also invested in some cool marketing and graphic design for their operating model 'The Interchange Journey - intervene, interact, integrate' and even paid Manchester University to evaluate it. Of course, despite the fancy graphics, to those of us who've been around awhile, there's basically nothing new in the concept, but judging by the enthusiastic presentations by newer recruits to the service, it certainly appears to have captured their imagination.
Although being repeatedly told everything would be tailored to the individual, the cogs rather give the impression of a machine cleverly designed to process 'service users' through a system that produces rehabilitated individuals as efficiently and cost effectively as possible but commensurate with contract performance and payment-by-result targets, naturally. Something tells me it's not going to be quite as straightforward as the designers envisage, but I can certainly see how the MoJ have been seduced by it.
There was no surprise in hearing that OASys, that all-singing, all-dancing computer-based timewasting device was indeed a complete waste of time and will be got rid of as soon as possible, in favour of a brand new simpler assessment system. Lets hope it works then.
Despite all the warm words and exhortations of the need to "all work together", I got the distinct impression from some quiet mutterings between 'stakeholders' in the room hoping to get a slice of the action that there was a degree of cynicism regarding Interserve's contracting policies and philosophy. The repeatedly-dangled carrot of lots of cash just waiting to be given away by the 'Innovation Fund' to stakeholders with bright ideas seemed to generate rather more hollow laughter than serious interest.
We learnt that:
- There's to be a 24 hour helpline for former and current service users
- A search is on for a bright new shiny contemporary Head Office in Wakefield
- An online Directory of Services will facilitate 'Pick & Mix' for busy OM's
- A Rent Deposit Scheme will help with accommodation problems
- Every service user will get a certificate at the end
- There will be Service User Councils
- Practitioners can share ideas via Panels to be set up
- TTG 'is a bit of a ropey contract spec'